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Competitive Pizza Eating Comes Back to Greenbelt

Bertoletti, after his win. (Courtesy Major League Eating)

Somewhat amazingly, the news that Dmitri Young's son Damon "Damage" Young has sprouted a mohawk turns out only to be the second-most important D.C. sports mohawk news of the week. The most important, of course, is the pending arrival of Patrick Bertoletti, the famously be-mohawked professional eater currently ranked third in the country by Major League Eating. He'll be in town this weekend to defend his title at Saturday's second-annual World Pizza Eating Championship at Three Brothers Pizza in Greenbelt; "the biggest sporting event in Washington, D.C. history," as Major League Eating spokesman Ryan Nerz described it.

Last year, you'll remember, Bertoletti and his mohawk downed 19 slices of traditional New York-style Neopolitan cheese pizza in 10 minutes, easily staving off Chip Simpson, who finished with 16.5 slices. I talked with Simpson--a 25-year-old physical therapist currently living in Birmingham, Ala. and ranked sixth in MLE--and he explained that he was done in last year by a miserable start.

"Really I just tried to swallow too much too fast," he told me. "I had so much in my mouth I had a hard time getting rid of that, and then by that time Pat was ahead of me and I couldn't catch up. I took the wrong approach at the very beginning of the contest, and it ended up costing me."

See, eating pizza fast is quite different than some of the eating contests you might be more familiar with. For one thing, you're not allowed to dip the pizza into water, so you need to be prepared for more frequent pauses to drink and a much more strenuous mastication activity.

"Pizza, I know my jaw is going to be tired at the end," said Simpson, the 2006 U.S. Buffalo wing eating champion and the world record holder in six-inch sausage sandwiches.

"That makes it a little bit harder, but I kind of like it that way," Bertoletti agreed. "I don't think you should ever dunk pizza in water. I just like pizza too much; I would probably never eat it again if I ate it that way."

Also, mashing up that many crusts that quickly can do a number on the eaters' chewing parts, depending on their experience and liquid consumption.

"Guys will actually describe mouth and esophageal injuries," noted Nerz, the MLE spokesman. "They also have that same problem in the canoli contest."

I'm sure they do, although both eaters I talked to dismissed such concerns. Anyhow, last year the Three Brothers agreed a pizza eating contest would be a proper way to celebrate their 30th anniversary, and the contest was such a success that they figured it might as well be an every-year occurrence. There will be 14 competitors in Saturday's $4,000 pro division contest, which will start at 3 p.m. and will include more than 50 16-inch pies. The pies will be freshly made, but kept at room temperature. Last year, contestants were permitted to skip the crusts, costing themselves one full slice with every four crusts they ignored, but this year that rule has been stricken. The field is swell; in addition to the aforementioned, we're expecting MLE No. 7 "Humble" Bob Shoudt, plus two local women, No. 5 Sonya Thomas and No. 10 Juliet Lee.

But the headliner is the 22-year-old Bertoletti, a Chicagoan who just graduated from culinary school. The pizza contest was one of his first big wins, and this is his first major title defense; he's aiming for between 24 and 32 slices. And he's already had a busy summer, winning peanut-butter-and-jelly, blueberry pie, shoofly pie and strawberry shortcake competitions. As for the hair, he only spikes it up to full height before eating competitions; kind of a pre-game ritual, he told me.

"People don't know me, they might just know the Mohawk and they gravitate towards that," he told me. "It's something that separates me from looking completely normal."

A major, major hat tip to Red Sox Monster, which alerted me about this budding competition, and also pointed me to this write-up from True Fan and the video highlights of last year's contest, which follow.

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 17, 2007; 4:54 PM ET
Categories:  Weirdness  
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Another sport shunned by WTEM.....

Posted by: Kim | August 18, 2007 12:57 AM | Report abuse

Considering Three Brothers' Pizza doesn't hold a candle to Five Guys' Burgers, I'd say this competition is the Brendan Haywood of eating contests.

Posted by: | August 18, 2007 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Greenbelt? Competitive eating?

Kudos to my hometown. I swear, the only time I ever hear its name in the news is when a corporation goes to court to die.

Posted by: James | August 18, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Your mother should be so proud!
I guess not alot to do in Maryland.

Posted by: caphcky | August 18, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I think that is an important thing .
I have many favorite dvd and video.
Some days ago , I want to put them onto my ipod video , some friends recommend a software to me at [url][/url]
It works pretty good .

Posted by: goodfriendswill | August 18, 2007 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the most realistic statement on this event's true standing is the fact that it is within walking distance of my house, and this is the first and only place I heard about it.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | August 19, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Irony of ironies: The sign advertising this at the Beltway Plaza mall was placed in front of Gold's Gym. Get in my belly!

Posted by: Red Sox Monster | August 19, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Also, "Courtesy Major League Eating." No better photo credit has ever been penned.

Posted by: Red Sox Monster | August 19, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

anyone know how many slices the amatuer one was? i know the professional one was 22 slices.

Posted by: pizzaman | August 21, 2007 8:05 AM | Report abuse

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